Friday, May 10, 2013

Kingly Treatment

(This is the fifth post on my cancer journey.)

"Barring a miracle, I don't think you will make it." I've had to say words like that, but I was talking about someone's marriage -- NOT their life. It must be one of the hardest things medical professionals are required to do. They devote their lives to help people get well. They fight with batteries of tests, treatment options, surgeries and medications. But sometimes they must say the hardest words a patient (and the patient's family) will ever hear.

I knew all those things, but this was my first time to encounter the healthcare system as one of people in the bullseye. I had cancer. Without treatment it could be devastating. Cathy and I had decided on a plan that included surgery. Now it was time to face the system. We couldn't have been more pleased.

It started with our doctor. The credentials on his office walls told us that he had been trained in a world-class teaching hospital. They also told us that he was highly rated in our region of the country. What the certificates couldn't say was that he is one of the docs with the incredible combination of well-honed skills and obviously extreme intelligence, mixed with an air of optimism and a dose of human compassion. When I met him, I immediately liked him. He had come at the recommendation of my family physician whom I consider a friend, but it was our first meeting that told me how glad I was that he would be in charge of this part of my health.

Obviously a doctor is but one part of the large, often intimidating, healthcare system. My surgery would be followed by a day or two in the hospital. My only other hospital stay (that I can remember) began the day I graduated from Basic Combat Training in the U.S. Army. That stay was for a pretty severe case of the flu and it was needed to restore me to health, but it wasn't particularly user friendly. In that stay, those of us on the bottom tier of military rank had to get out of bed each morning at 0600, make our own bed, then get back in it. Not exactly luxury! My hospital stay for cancer surgery, however, was a model of quality care accentuated by creature comforts fit for royalty.

The surgery wing of the hospital had recently been remodeled. Every room in the wing was private and fairly large. The staff was professional, but they were beyond that. They seemed to mirror the optimism I saw in my doctor. They managed my pain, cared for my personal needs and took time to answer my questions. One nurse on a night shift seemed a little "down" when she came to check on me. I mentioned it to her. "Is there some way I can pray for you?" I asked. She shared some needs within her family and I promised to pray. After that she came out of her shell and showed me great kindness. Another nurse had just finished her Nurse Practitioner training at the university where Cathy and I met many years ago. We had a great talk about the school and about her future plans.

One of the "perks" of being on the surgery floor was that we could order food from a large, diverse menu. Various parts of the menu were available 24 hours of the day. I guess they know from experience that surgery can throw your system...and your The food was good and I could order things that sounded good to me. It took me over a week to start getting my appetite back after the surgery.

I am sure that every hospital has its share of complaints from patients and families. My hospital stay, however, filled me with encouragement and hope. They treated me, not as a sick person, but as someone who would get well. I did!


Monday, May 6, 2013

Passing Batons on Treacherous Trails

I wonder how many batons we have given away over the years...batons with the inscription: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation." (Romans 1:16) Whatever the number, I have this library of memories about families who have stood before our church and declared their intentions. What intentions? To do everything in their power to pass the baton of faith to their children. To be sure, not every family has stayed on the trail they planned to walk. That journey is filled with unforeseen pitfalls and slippery slopes.

A few years ago I was fishing on a small river in the Rocky Mountains. At one point, the best route to get to a certain point on the river was up the side of a mountain where we took a game trail high above the water. My brother and I were walking along nonchalantly when my feet almost slipped out from under me. The loose pebbles and the steep mountain slope almost took me down. Literally. When I got my footing, I looked where I would have fallen and realized I might not have survived. I tell that story, because raising a family is like that journey. It can be beautiful and exhilarating, but the trail is fraught with danger.

Should the fact that some faith batons get dropped before they are passed on to a new generation make us give up the practice? Not at all! The sadness we feel when we observe people fall from the trail is mixed with the joy of seeing those who somehow keep hiking. We all slip and stumble sometimes. None of us is without perilous moments, but God's love never ends. He is always there to help us back up if we cry out to Him.

My memory library contains hundreds of baton stories over the years. One of my favorite was just a couple years ago when four generations of a family gathered around, dedicating themselves to raise a precious little girl to grab that faith baton for herself. That's when the little one's grandmother reminded me that long ago we had dedicated her sons -- including the baby's dad. Here we were, starting over with a new generation.

Mother's Day Weekend is one of my favorite times of the year at Stone Ridge. We will do parent/child dedications in all services. Bring a friend and soak up the joy!